NSW euthanasia legislation awaiting the final vote

Article published 15 March 2022

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THE NSW Parliament is considering the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021. It was passed by the Lower House and is awaiting a vote in the Upper House.

A parliamentary inquiry into the Bill took evidence for and against euthanasia in general and in NSW specifically.

However, the inquiry did not make recommendations other than that the NSW Parliament should consider the Bill.

The inquiry received around 39,000 responses to an online questionnaire and well over 3,000 submissions.

What is proposed is that to be eligible for a voluntary assisted death that a person must have a terminal illness which (1) will cause death within one year and (2) is causing suffering that cannot be relieved. The person must also have decision-making capacity and must not be put under undue pressure or duress.

Clearly, decision-making capacity can be problematic in cases where a person has a form of dementia or other disease that attacks the mind.

This means the Bill does not provide for conditional applications. A person can’t set up a voluntary assisted death for if and when they develop a form of dementia.

Approval of an application for a voluntary assisted death is dual. Eligibility is assessed by a “coordinating practitioner”, who refers the person on to a “medical practitioner”.

Both, independently from each other, must assess whether the person has a terminal disease likely to lead to their death within a certain period and is causing them suffering that cannot be relieved.

Both must assess if the person has decision making capacity.

Both must assess if the person is acting voluntarily.

If the Bill is passed in the NSW Upper House, NSW will be the last state in Australia to adopt euthanasia legislation.

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